Last week there were a couple of interesting ships visiting the Mersey and Liverpool - the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was here for the weekend, and the world's biggest supertanker stopped off at one of the oil terminals.

You can't quite see the river from my front window - someone built a huge cathedral in the way - but it got me thinking about how nice it would be to have a feel for what was happening on the river. Obviously, given my interest in the "Internet of Things", I wondered how I could connect the river to the Internet...

Strictly speaking, this little fun project isn't really connecting the physical river to the Internet but it's doing the next best thing. Ship AIS have a great service showing the realtime location of all sorts of shipping, so I've knocked up a little script to scrape results from the Ship AIS view of the Mersey.

When ships cross an imaginary line from Fort Perch to the Seaforth Container Terminal, the script updates the status of the @merseyshipping twitter user with something like this:

Example of the status updates from the MerseyShipping twitter-bot

It tells you the name of the ship and whether it was entering or leaving the river. It also provides a link to Ship AIS to see where the ship is now and tells you what kind of ship it is (if we know).

I'm not making any guarantees as to how reliable the service will be as it's just a bit of fun, but feel free to follow @merseyshipping if you'd like to keep track of the comings and goings on the river.